UK customers can now buy, hold and sell digital currencies on PayPal.
PayPal’s crypto product debut in the UK marks the payments processor’s first foray into international expansion following its initial launch in the U.S. last year. The California-based company announced last Sunday that UK users will now be able to trade digital currencies such as bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum or litecoin for as little as £1. Additionally, users will also gain access to educational content and track crypto prices in real-time through PayPal’s website and mobile app.
Speaking to CNBC, Jose Fernandez da Ponte, vice president and general manager for blockchain, crypto and digital currencies at PayPal, said that the company’s crypto product has been doing very well in the US and is expected to continue this success in the UK.
As with its American counterpart, the crypto service will depend on Paxos, a New York-regulated digital currency company, to enable crypto buying and selling in the U.K. The PayPal-owned product has already drawn comparisons to the U.K. fintech firm Revolut’s crypto product offering, which now supports over 30 tokens as well as established cryptocurrency exchanges. However while PayPal users are unable to move their crypto holdings outside the app, Revolut has already begun to test a new feature that will enable users to withdraw bitcoin to their wallets.
PayPal is one of the largest mainstream financial companies to offer consumers access to cryptocurrencies, with over 403 million active accounts globally. The global payments provider is estimated to have over 2 million monthly users in the U.K., as such by making cryptocurrency services more accessible to residents, the company has an opportunity to expand the exposure of digital assets in the country.
With Da Ponte commenting:
“Our global reach, digital payments expertise, and knowledge of consumer and businesses, combined with rigorous security and compliance controls provides us with the unique opportunity, and the responsibility, to help people in the UK to explore cryptocurrency.”
“We are committed to continue working closely with regulators in the UK, and around the world, to offer our support and meaningfully contribute to shaping the role digital currencies will play in the future of global finance and commerce.”
Mass Adoption of Crypto
The move comes as more established financial companies have begun to embrace the adoption of digital assets, despite the ongoing concerns over consumer safety, money laundering risks and price volatility which have often been seen as an impediment to their adoption by large payment companies such as PayPal. Most recently, UK regulators banned the UK arm of Binance from operating, citing a failure to meet money-laundering requirements.
“It makes sense that, as there is increased consumer interest and increased volume, the regulators are putting more attention into this space,” da Ponte said, adding that PayPal has built “strong regulatory relations.”
On the other hand, many central banks have expressed interest in creating their own digital currencies as cash in use continues to dwindle in several developed countries. The U.K. Treasury and Bank of England stated that they would look into the idea of launching a digital version of the British pound, nicknamed ‘Britcoin’ by the U.K. press. Da Ponte said central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, were a “fantastic prospect” but it would take policymakers some time to iron out the key issues involved.
What’s next for PayPal?
PayPal has expressed plans to expand its product range within the unregulated market, allowing U.S. users to pay at millions of e-commerce platforms using crypto. The firm also expanded crypto buying and selling to Venmo, its popular mobile wallet, debuting its new feature Cask Back to Crypto earlier this month. The new feature will allow Venmo cardholders to facilitate automatic crypto purchases directly from their Venmo account, without any transaction fees.
“We definitely have ambitions to continue to expand the product range in the U.S., the U.K. and other markets,” da Ponte said. “We are very deliberate about starting with initial functionality, and then we’ll see where the market is going to take us. Different markets have different appetites for products.”
PayPal’s new service will be available for all eligible customers within the upcoming weeks through a new cryptocurrency tab.
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